Big names in business and politics gathered on Mackinac Island last week for the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual Michigan Policy Conference. In addition to conversations about the state’s economic development efforts, a major focus of this year’s conference was education. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and “education reform activist” Michelle Rhee both had prominent roles in the program. And while I don’t normally agree with these folks, I found myself cheering them on when it came to Common Core State Standards.
Anyone in education can tell you about Common Core. It is an initiative launched by the National Governor’s Association in an attempt to set shared national goals in reading, writing, and math. This means that if you live in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, you will walk out of kindergarten, first grade, second grade, and so on with the same skills as someone living in Billings, Montana or Houston, Texas.
It makes sense, right? If we are teaching kids certain skills in fourth grade in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, shouldn’t that be similar to what fourth graders are learning across the country? The answer is yes. We should have rigorous national goals for our students. We should be moving together toward a more educated society.
Yet some on the far left are opposed to Common Core because they claim it quashes an educator’s creativity in the classroom, and some on the far right are opposed to Common Core because they believe it is an intrusion of the federal government in local schools. Both fringes are incredibly misguided when it comes to this issue.
As an educator in Wisconsin, I work with Common Core. It informs the work that I do so that I know my students are first-grade ready by the time they leave my classroom. Yet, Common Core is vague enough that I have the creativity to develop my own curriculum. It isn’t being shoved down my throat by the federal government. Yes, some districts may have to make adjustments to meet Common Core, but the payoff of having strong national standards will be theoretical and literal dividends via an educated citizenry. We should expect and accept nothing less.